It would be so much easier if we’d just pay more, right? That’s what the airlines seem to believe. It’s impossible for them to turn consistent profits because we just won’t accept higher prices. And, kicking the poor off the plane doesn’t seem to be an option.
I got up this morning and read George Hobica’s hilarious “interview” with Wilbur Flywright, CEO of BrokenWings Airways. In it, I was treated to one airline industry cliché after another. To see them all in one place, it was either eye-opening or strangely reminiscent of an ambitious gate agent’s Twitter account.
Here are the four reasons, according to “Flywright,” airlines blame us – the people who pay their bills – for their inability to run well, despite the fact that some (e.g., Southwest and JetBlue) have actually found a way to thrive.1. We won’t pay more: Of course, I don’t know any industry in which customers pay more than is necessary … at least, not purposefully. You may get suckered at the used car lot, but you don’t go to your local grocery store, demand to see the manager and explain to him, as though he ate too much paste in his youth, that eggs really should cost 34 percent more.
2. We have alternatives: When air travel is inconvenient or expensive, we can take any number of cheap bus services or even drive. Frankly, it takes a strange turn of events to get me on a plane to Boston or Washington, DC.
3. “We” deregulated the industry: It’s the law of the land, and in theory, passengers are voters (we’re indirectly responsible). So, we “imposed” a free market on the airline industry … the nerve of voters in a free society! It may have happened more than 30 years ago, but we still hear airline people gripe about it, even if they were of single-digit age when the transformation occurred.
Hint to airlines: Don’t blame passengers for deregulation – I was only a year old at the time. I assure you, I had nothing to do with it, likewise most of my friends. If we could have done something about it we would have. Also, don’t talk about it as something that killed (or at least maimed) your industry. It was 30 years ago, you need a new lamentation. How about poor customer service levels?
4. We made the airlines cut stuff: Since we won’t pay a “fair” fare, the airlines have had to make cuts. Routes, employee compensation, amenities (if you can call them that) … we now have to pay for what we want in the form of fees.
Taking fees and deregulation together, I just loved this:
So what did we do? We eliminated service. We cut salaries and benefits. No more little plastic wings for the kiddies; if you remember those, then you remember that the cheapest roundtrip coach fare from New York to Los Angeles in 1959 was $231, or about $1,800 in today’s dollars. And if you remember that, then could you please shut up about the fees?
And occasionally, there’s a good point:
Ah, the fees. Can we agree on just one thing? If your neighbor moves, you aren’t going to pay for it, right? No, of course not. Not unless you really wanted him gone. So why should you pay for the jet fuel consumed by some moron who’s flying a 100-pound steamer trunk across the country in our baggage compartment?
[photo by leafar. via Flickr]